Jobs for English Majors
Many students love to read, write, and think, and those that do often find themselves debating on whether or not to major in English. One consideration any potential English major is likely to make is whether or not studying English in college will provide them with a viable pathway for a secure job. Are there any jobs for English majors out there? This article aims to answer that question and provide potential English majors a nudge in the right direction.
What do English majors do?
First, in order to understand why English majors are qualified to hold a great number of different jobs, let’s consider what being an English major involves.
English majors read. They read very, very well. They expose themselves to literature of all genres, from all cultures, from all time periods throughout history. They grapple with the greatest writing in recorded history, studying how it’s crafted and engaging with the deepest questions raised by disciplines like philosophy, psychology, science, and history.
English majors think. They think about how words function in lines, how lines function in paragraphs, how paragraphs function in texts, and how texts function in our lives and cultures. They seek to understand what language says, what language means/suggests/implies/evokes, and what language does. They view texts through a range of critical lenses and build upon (or challenge) existing scholarship and ideas.
English majors write about what they read. They analyze how texts are made, what they might mean, and how and why they hold cultural significance. As an English major, you’ll become a keen student of the sentence, and you’ll appreciate vocabulary, syntax, and the vast variety of ways in which it’s possible for human beings to communicate and express themselves.
Broadly useful skills
These skills—reading, writing, and thinking—are useful in nearly every job you might want to work. Learning to read and write skillfullly make you a better thinker and a more intelligent and resourceful person, and nearly every employer would prefer his or her employees to be skilled readers, writers, and thinkers. The problem with majoring in English (for some) is that these skills are so broadly useful that they don’t favor one particular career path over another. It isn’t obvious what career path English majors should take, whereas it’s more obvious, say, for a student of engineering. Engineering students become engineers. English majors? What do they become? There isn’t any clear and accepted path. Rather, English majors have to make their own path, and there are many paths available to English majors who take the initiative to head down those paths.
Job Areas for English Majors
Potential jobs for English majors abound, if you know where to look and what you’re looking for. Students who hold degrees in English have cultivated a skill set that will allow them to thrive in hundreds of jobs in the following 7 job areas:
Writing and Editing
Let’s consider some career options in each of those 7 areas.
Writing and Editing
First, there’s writing and editing. English majors often aspire to be creative writers, working on their own fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Until you make it big as a writer, however, creative writing is unlikely to provide you with gainful employment at first—and even after a lifetime of writing creatively, there’s no guarantee it will bring you monetary recognition. You could start a blog and monetize it, however, or sell your own books and ebooks. Maybe you could get a gig writing song lyrics for a major pop star or bad poems for Hallmark greeting cards!
English majors also work in journalism as writers, reporters, editors, and critics. You could write for a newspaper, a magazine, or any of thousands of digital publications.
You could always become a contract writer or freelancer and take on any number of writing projects, from ghostwriting a memoir to writing articles for your local dentist’s web site.
Potential employers in the writing and editing area include newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, film, trade publications, Internet sites, large corporations, government agencies, universities and university presses, techincal industries, or consider becoming self-employed and freelance.
An English major might also find a job in a technical communication field. Jobs in technical communication fields include technical writer/editor, science and medical writer, grant and proposal writer, software and hardware documentation, information technology writing, human-computer interface design, corporate communications and training, and mechanical communication.
Potential employers in technical communication include management, scientific, and technical consulting companies; technical industries; retailers; engineering firms; the healthcare industry; computer systems design companies; software publishers.
Other English majors work in publishing. If you’re interested in a career in publishing, you might find yourself doing a number of things, including editing, advertising, sales, circulation, production, publicity, marketing, promotion, or administration.
Potential employers in publishing include trade publications, special interest magazines, trade magazine, association magazines, Sunday newspaper supplements, educational publishing, religious books and magazines, professional and scholarly publishing, university presses, independent publishers, and ebook and audiobook publishers.
Many English majors find jobs in education.
There’s always teaching, administration, higher education administration (including admissions, financial aid, academic advising, development, alumni affairs, international education and study abroad, and student affairs), library science, non-classroom teaching or tutoring, English as a Second Language, and research.
Potential employers in education include public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities, language institutes, libraries, museums, private learning centers, test prep companies, and nonprofit organizations.
As an English major, you might find yourself interested in advertising, and many English majors find jobs in this area.
Jobs in advertising include creative services such as copywriting, art direction, or webpage design, as well as account management and planning, media, and production.
Potential employers in advertising are advertising agencies or in-house agencies of large companies.
English majors often secure careers in public relations, doing work like account coordination, writing and editing, media relations, social media, account management, fundraising, and research.
Potential public relations employers include PR firms, advertising agencies, in-house PR departments, trade associations, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
English majors also frequently obtain careers in business, whether in management, customer service, sales and marketing, human resources, or insurance claims and underwriting.
Potential employers in business include all business organizations, including banks, real estate agencies, insurance firms, large corporations and small businesses.
Lastly, English majors often work in law in areas such as law assitance, prosecution, defense, contractual, corporate, nonprofit or public interest, government, media, and lobbying.
Potential employers in law include law firms, government agencies, state and local government, corporations, public interest organizations, private practice, and colleges and universities.
What to do
The thing to realize if you’re an English major is this: you’re developing very useful skills, but you need to learn how to sell yourself and your skill set to employers. No one’s going to come knocking on your door like they do for some students in STEM fields. It’s up to YOU to research employment opportunities in the seven areas listed above and secure a job. If you put in the time and never give up, you’ll get results. It takes effort to secure a career as an English major, but it’s very possible and quite rewarding to do so.
Hopefully this article has helped give you confidence in majoring in English. Follow your passions, but remember that YOU have to be your biggest advocate. Take initiative and you’ll have no problem joining the job market. Best of luck!
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